Sen. John McCain Addresses OSU Graduates

Sen. John McCain (R, AZ) Addresses OSU's Largest Graduating Class
Sen. John McCain (R, AZ) Addresses OSU's Largest Graduating Class

Arizona Senator John McCain delivered the spring commencement address Sunday afternoon at Ohio State University. The prominent Republican and possible 2008 presidential contender told about 7,000 graduates that he continues to support U.S. intervention in Iraq. But he says he also encourages Americans with differing views to express their opinions.

While he acknowledged many Americans disagreed with the Iraq War, Senator McCain told graduates and their families at Ohio Stadium why he still supports U.S. military involvement.

“My patriotism and my conscience required me to support it and engage in the debate over whether and how to fight it,” McCain said. “I stand that ground because I believe, rightly or wrongly, that my country’s interests and values required it.”

McCain, who will be 70 years old in August, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and was held prisoner of war in Vietnam for 5 1/2 years. He’s viewed as a maverick republican because of his sometimes divergent views from the Republican Party’s mainstream. On the war in Iraq, McCain appears to prefer to take the middle ground.

“I believe the benefits and success will justify the costs that we have incurred,” McCain said. “But Americans should argue about this war. It has cost the lives of 2500 of the best of us. It has taken innocent life. It has imposed an enormous financial burden on our economy and at a minimum; it has complicated our ability to respond to other looming threats.”

Arizona’s senior senator condemned Islamic extremists who he described as having disdain for human rights and contempt for innocent human life. And he criticized global inaction 12 years ago while 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered. Now with a renewed moral sense of duty, McCain says, the U-S and others must intervene in the awful human catastrophe’ that’s happening in Sudan.

“Osama bin Laden and his followers, ready as always to sacrifice anything and anyone in their hatred of the West and our ideals, have called on Muslims to rise up against any Westerner who dares to intervene to stop the genocide, McCain said, even though hundreds of thousands of Muslims are its victims. Now that, my friends, is a difference, a cause worth taking up arms against.”

Other McCain commencement addresses have not been as uneventful as Sunday’s Ohio State appearance. Last month in ceremonies for The New School in New York, McCain was booed, several in the audience turned their backs to him, while others held signs saying ‘McCain does not speak for me.’ McCain also delivered the commencement address last month at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia. Some political observers say it’s part of a strategy to woo religious conservatives.